Armenia (the Armenian Highlands) lying between West and East is the upland and the central plateau of South-Western Asia.
Located at equal distances from the ancient cultural centers of both worlds, Armenia serves as a bridge between the West and the East, becoming an international transit trade crossroad connecting the East (China, India) with the West (Greece, Rome). That road was called the ‘‘Silk Road’’24.
As we see Armenia used to have a convenient geographical location.
The convenient geographical location of Armenia had also a strategic meaning that provided a dominating position in the region. During millennia many states and empires were formed in the neighbourhood of Armenia, which struggled among themselves to rule over Armenia.
Almost all the strong states of the Ancient World tried to conquer the Armenian Highlands, which was known as Aratta, Armani, Nairi, Hurri, Mitanni (Hurri-Mitanni), Hayasa, AraratUrartu, Armenia, etc.
The inscriptions of Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, Hittitian, Assyrian, Babylonian and other states also attest about this. Conquering Armenia was not an easy thing, however, as there were skilful and courageous soldiers in Armenia, who had been making daring counterattacks against the enemies for centuries.
In the VII–IV millennia B.C. production (metal discovery, advanced working tools, horse domestication, and usage of draught animals) was highly developed in Armenia, ensuring the steady growth
of population and settlements.
The fi rst shifts from the Armenian Highlands date back to the VII–VI millennia B.C. when the traces of Armenian (Arian) tribes (pottery, working tools made of obsidian, ritual symbols) were uncovered in the western part of Asia Minor (Catal Huyuk, Hajilar, Troy, Alishar) and in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, Amuq or Amik Valley (TellEsh-Sheikh, Alalakh).
In the III–II millennia B.C. there were more shifts from the Armenian Highlands. Armenian/Arian tribes moved to West, North and East. During the shifts to the West, one section of the tribes reached the western part of Asia Minor and the Balkans (Greek tribes of Crete-Mycenean culture, Phrygians, Thracians and Etruscans).
These tribes reached the northern parts of the Black Sea, through the Caucasus as well as from the South passing around the Caspian Sea. At the end of the II millennium B.C. new bulks of the Indo-European (Arian) population reached the Balkans through the northern parts of the Black Sea.
Objects of ancient culture uncovered in Greece are known as Crete-Mycenaean, which date back to the III–II millennia. This culture is also observed in Asia Minor (Alishar, Troy), the Armenian Highlands (Shengavit, Garni, Elar and Artsn), etc.
Greek tribes are acknowledged to have created the Crete-Mycenaean culture during some minor waves of emigrations to the Crete Island and the Balkanian Peninsula from the western parts of Asia Minor (Iona and other territories).
Besides the Greek tribes, Phrygians, Thracians, Etruscans and other tribes have also represented the Crete-Mycenaean
The DNA results of analysis carried out through modern methods by American and Greek scientists on skeleton bones of the people bearing the Crete-Mycenaean culture show that the ancient inhabitants of Greece were the descendants of agricultural tribes dating back to the Neolithic period, who were the bearers of Crete-Mycenaean culture.
Their ancestors came to Crete from Asia Minor and Western Asia about 9000 years ago. According to the same studies people of Crete-Mycenaean culture have genetic similarities with ancient and modern Europeans.
So the ancestors of Crete-Mycenaean tribes, that is to say people of Neolithic culture, emigrated to Europe, too, and they are also the ancestors of modern Europeans.25 As we see the results of those studies answer many questions of ancient history, which are also important for further studies concerning the shifts from the Armenian
Highland and its surrounding territories. There are no concrete facts about the ancestral Homeland in ancient Greek written sources, but the spiritual values (worship of gods, legends) and the values of material culture testify about the ancient connection between Armenia and Greece. It’s interesting to note that the Greek mythology has its own variant of the Flood.
According to one of the legends in Greek mythology, Greeks and Armenians have blood relations. Nowadays we can read about the Greek variant of the Flood in the “Works and Days” poem by the famous Greek poet Hesiod (VIII– VII cc. B.C). In this poem 4 generations were obliterated by gods because of their haughtiness, evil and envious attitude.
These generations were created and lived in the Golden, Silver, Copper and Iron Ages. In the Iron Age during the Flood, the son of Prometheus, Deucalion with his wife was saved. Prometheus advised Deucalion to make a big box and sit in it with his wife. After nine days of fl ooding the box landed on top of Mount Parnassus.
Then by the order of Zeus the human tribe again propagated itself.26 According to another Greek legend Deucalion and his wife had two children, Helen and Amphictyon. The Hellenes were derived from Helen and the Armenians from Amphictyon.27
This legend shows that Greeks and Armenians have blood relation. Armenian literary man Hovhannes Draskhanakertsi (IX–X cc.) states in his work that the grandfather of our Armenian forefather Hayk,
Tiras, was also the forefather of Tracians.28 But the newly emerged tribes were not always in peace with their kindred who had been living in those territories earlier.
The old residents often moved to other territories under duress of newcomers. In Egyptian sources we can read about one of those kinds of shifts which describes “the emigration of sea people” that began from the Aegean World and the Balkans (Tracian-Phrygian tribes) and ended in Asia Minor and Egypt (2nd half of the 2nd millennium B.C.).
In the list of ‘‘sea people’’ no mention is made about “hays” or “armens”, and the migrants are called by the names of their tribes or by new names. As we see the ancestors of Europeans came to Europe from the East passing around the Caucasus or the Caspian Sea and from the South through Asia Minor (the above mentioned is testifi ed by archaeological excavations, during which cultural values identical with those of Armenian origin were uncovered.
Geographical names also testify about it). During those shifts in Europe Celtic, Greek, German, Illyrian,
Italic (now Italian), Slavonic, Baltic and other languages were fi – nally formed. In historiography these moving tribes were called Indo-Iranian people, but those tribes called themselves Aryan (in honour of god Ar, the Creator).
Being descended from hay-armens those tribes, the Aryans, even in other territories, always remembered about their ancient homeland Hayastan-Armenia, the land of gods, immortals and holy Laws, sacred ceremonies and holy Mount Ararat-Masis, as well as the Mother River Araks and other things.
Since the end of the 1st millennium the shifts of hay-armens had been related to anti-Armenian policypractised by Roman and later by Byzantine Emperors. They provoked or forced Armenians to migrate to the suburbs of their Empire as they did not want to see a powerful Armenia.
After the fi rst and second partition of Armenia between the Byzantine and Persian Empires (387, 591), the population in Western Armenia, especially servicemen, were removed to the western parts of
the Byzantine Empire, Cappadocia, Cilicia and other territories. Armenians were also driven to Thrace, the Balkans, the Danube River basin and other territories.
Not only soldiers but also people of other layers, such as ministers, merchants, artisans, etc., were forced to emigrate. In Western Armenia by the order of Byzantine emperors mobilizations periodically took place and under the command of their ministers recruited Armenian horsemen and infantry regiments were deported to the West to take part in aggressive and plundering raids against Vandals, Goths, Slavs and other tribes.
During those raids Armenian soldiers were perished or they just refused to take part in those unjust wars and punitive activities of the Byzantine army. The Armenian soldiers left the Byzantine army and settled in new territories (the Balkans, Europe and Kievan Rus’). The traces of Armenian presence are especially seen in the Balkans.
We can say that in the formation of the Balkan peoples (Serbs, Bulgarians, Macedonians) Armenians have played a very crucial role (Armenian detachments who served in the army of Byzantine Empire). This is testifi ed by legends, traditions, lifestyle as well as many other cultural components (music, musical instruments, dressing and broidery) of those people.
It is also known that since 572 during the Persian-Byzantine war the inhabitants of Arzn canton, situated in one of the Armenian regions Arzanene (Aghdznik), more than 10000 people, who served Persians faithfully, were deported and populated in Cyprus in 587 by the order of the Byzantine Emperor Maurice (Mauritius). According to John of Ephesus29 “those people live there till now”.
Since the middle of the 7thc. Armenians left their Motherland and were deported also because of a social movement called Paulicianism. This movement was against the Byzantine Empire, injustice, all kinds of class privilages as well as the church. In the 70s of the IX c. the Byzantine army infl icted reprisals against the members of the Paulician movement in the entire territory of the Byzantine Empire.
Those who survived were deported to the Balkans. Many of them settled in Philippopolis of Thracia (now Plovdiv in Bulgaria) and in the islands of the Mediterranean Sea.
According to Byzantine historian Anna Komnene (12thc., daughter of Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnesos) the entire Philippopolis was mainly populated by Paulicians30 (Armenians), who were “brave men”, “warriors who fought audaciously against the enemy”31.
Paulician32 soldiers fought also against the Slavs during which
they (Armenians) communicated with Slavonic tribes.
Armenian Pedestrian warriors of Byzantine army, depicted on an ivory jewel box, 10th c. (’’Byzantine Army 886-1118’’ by Ian Heath, 2004).
It is of great interest to note the way soldiers saluted each other which is identical to the way they practice today. Under the image we read: ‘‘the images on the ivory jewel box show the service of Armenian pedestrian soldiers in the Byzantine army. The main section of the Empire’s military aristocracy, (may be more than 25%), were Armenians’’. http: armenian_military_portal:
Summary: Being situated between the East and the West the Armenian Highlands were in a convenient geographical position having a signifi cant military importance. That is why the States and Empires, which were formed in the neighbourhood of Armenia during millennia, aimed at ruling over Armenia.
Armenia, the country of Heaven, with its Alpine grasslands, mountainous pastures, forests, rivers and lakes attracted the attention of cattle-breeding nomadic (Semitic, Turkish, Tatar, Kurdish) peoples.
These tribes invaded Armenia for millennia as they wanted to own the pastures of our country. Armenians were able to struggle for their independence for centuries, but there had been failures as well, which led to the rise of a wave of emigration among the Armenian population.
Social movements (Paulician, Tondrakian) against the Byzantine Empire, all kinds of injustice and the church as well as natural disasters like earthquakes, drought, starvation, etc. became reasons for emigration.
It has already been mentioned that Byzantine Emperors, leading anti-Armenian policy, supported the movements and the emigration of Armenians (especially those of military servicemen) to the suburbs of the Byzantine Empire. The main aim of this policy was to weaken Armenia.
Armenians used to be good soldiers and they protected the boundaries of both the Roman and the Byzantine Empires. They also took part in military expeditions, organized by Roman (Byzantine) emperors. During those expeditions they communicated with tribes and people living in Europe. In the Ancient World the Armenian cavalry (ayrudzi այրուձի) was well known.
According to the above mentioned fact Armenian detachments left the Roman and Byzantine armies because they did not want to take part in their invasions. They settled in new territories in the neighbourhood of tribes who had already been living there.
There are many facts about this both in Roman and European (German, English, French) as well as Armenian written sources, according to which much important information is revealed about the relations between the European ancient tribes (Britons, Basques, Celts or Gauls, Germans, Franks) and Armenia. We will further touch upon the European ancient written sources: legends, memories as well as the works of antique authors.
An excerpt from Angela Teryan’s book “Ancient written sources of European peoples about their ancestral homeland – Armenia and Armenians”
24 Manandyan A.,“About the Trade between Armenian Cities and the World in Ancient Times”, Yerevan, 1954, p. 72.
26 M. Bartikyan, Helen Dick (Դիցապաշտ Հելլադան կամ Հելլեն դիք), Athens, 1936,
27 H.Ter-Movsesyan, History of Armenia, Venice, 1922, p. 119–120
28 Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi, History of Armenia, 1912, p. 11
29 John of Ephesus, see N. Pigulevskaya, Syrian Sources about the History of USSR Nations, M.–L., 1941, p. 133, 143, 146
30 Chrestomathy of the History of Armenia, Yerevan-1981, pp. 806–807 (Anne Commene,
Alexiade, book 6, chapter 2).
31 Chrestomathy of the History of Armenia, p. 804 (Anne Commene, Alexiade), (book 14, chapter 8).
32 Paulicians lived in Thracia till the 19th c. After that time, in the Plovdiv and Svishtov districts of Bulgaria about 50000 descendants of Paulicians lived. They have already forgotten the language of their ancestors, Armenian, and are assimilated with Bulgarians having some traditions typical to Armenian ones (some standards of living, embroidery, music, dances), (History of Armenia, v–2, Yerevan, 1984, p. 415; H. Zhamkochyan, A. Abrahamyan, S. Melik-Bakkshyan, S. Poghosyan, History of Armenia, Yerevan, 1975, p. 383).